Q. Sometimes I can’t figure out if I’m in preschool or high school. Oh wait………I’m at work!!! Dealing with difficult almost sends me to a breaking point. Do you have any ideas that could help me preserve my sanity?

A. Dealing with difficult people is something we cannot escape. They seem to be everywhere, including the workplace. We too can be difficult at times. We could be feeling sick, insecure, anxious or stressed from a myriad of personal reasons.
But there are those who are simply “High Conflict People.” Their personality pattern generally includes: rigid and uncompromising, negativity, blaming others, and difficulty empathizing.
Difficult people may fall into one of the following categories: Whiners, Know-it-alls, Bullies, Passives, Negatives, Yes-people.
When strategizing how to deal with difficult people think of the following: Connect with EAR statements (or calming unmanaged emotions). Calming the right brain soothes the high-conflict person’s defenses.
E – Empathy “I can understand how upsetting this is”
A – Attention “I hear how important this is for you – tell me more.”
R – Respect “I respect how hard you have been working on the project.”
Here are more tips to use in a situation with a difficult person:
1. Be aware that normal logic really doesn’t work – remember they can not see that their behavior is an issue.
2. Understand that your primary goal is to contain the situation, not to make them see the light.
3. Keep your interaction brief – focus on the facts.
4. Try to remain friendly which lowers the risk for person to become defensive.
5. Sound confident, state your information but don’t continue to have a back and forth conversation.
6. Avoid trying to give insight, its useless.
7. Don’t open up their emotions or react with your own intense emotions—they can’t handle them very well.
8. Focus on what you can do & on your responses, don’t try to change them.
When you realize you are in the path of a difficult person the first thing to do is change paths, but if it is impossible then practice some of these suggestions. They aren’t going away so the challenge is how to deal with them and take care of you!!!!

Vicki L Mayfield, M.Ed., R.N., LMFT Marriage and Family Therapy Oklahoma City

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